Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dutch Cities Demand Open Source

Apparently, passivity is not working. A group of 8 cities in the Netherlands will wait no longer for the market to provide more technology choices. Fed up with poor interoperability and uni-vendor dependency, they are demanding open source software alternatives.

An article (in dutch) in the Dutch newspaper Trouw describes the effort by several large Dutch cities to access open source choices. Indeed, they have gone so far as to publish a manifest insisting on open source options from vendors who want to compete for municipal ICT contracts.

Is this the IT equivalent of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church?

Categories: open, source, procurement, Netherlands, government

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Technology Neutral ≠ Open Source Inaction

Memo to governments: technology-neutral policies on procurement do not mean that governments should do nothing about open source. While governments like Malaysia are neutralizing formal preferences (or mandates) for open source, they should not become passive about procurement or competition within the ICT market.

Technology neutrality is not a natural state, for governments or anyone else. People have preferences, even if policies on paper do not. Removing a sentence from an Open Source Master Plan, as Malaysia has done, does not magically level the playing field in ICT procurement. Neither does an open source preference for that matter. Procurement trumps policy every time.

To establish a truly neutral and competitive procurement environment, governments need to focus on 2 things: (1) setting clear objectives; and (2) burning your old, standard RFPs.

For step 1, Malaysia has it right. Its OSS Framwork sets the right targets: increase software choices and interoperability, reduce total costs of ownership and vendor lock-in, and ensure security.

Step 2 -- changing how procurement is actually done -- is much harder. It requires both changing rules and how people act. Tweaking your procurement policies will not work because you cannot "tweak" people's behavior. More dramatic action is needed.

Three actions can help drive changes in procurement practices and behavior. First, issue new standard RFP provisions that show agencies what neutral language looks like. Second, establish new criteria for bid evaluation that takes proper account of how open source works in the market. Lastly, find a way to make agency interactions with vendors more transparent. Too often, procurement decisions are made behind closed doors before an RFP is even issued. That is not a formula for value for money.

Categories: open, source, procurement, Malaysia, government